Automated external defibrillators rarely used to treat cardiac arrest in high-rise buildings: Study

Automated external defibrillator (AED) devices can often mean the difference between life and death for individuals who experience cardiac arrest. But in some cases the products are rarely used, according to a new study.

Philips HeartStart OnSite AED--Courtesy of Philips

Researchers in Canada looked at people who live in residential high-rise buildings and who suffered cardiac arrest, and found that regardless of what floor individuals lived on, AEDs, which shock the heart back into pumping blood, were not used frequently. Having people in the building trained in using the devices or making them available in the lobby, on certain floors or in elevators could help speed up treatment, Ian Drennan, a paramedic with York Region Paramedic Services and lead author on the study, told Reuters.

And for bystanders who see someone experience cardiac arrest, the best course of action is to "call 911 and do what you can, follow CPR guidelines, get an AED," Drennan said. The researchers published their findings in a recent issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The study comes almost a year after the FDA increased its regulation of AEDs. In January 2015, the agency issued an administrative order requiring PMA approval for new and existing AEDs, citing manufacturing issues stemming from the products and a growing number of patient safety concerns.

The FDA has gotten 72,000 reports of AED failure since 2005 and has conducted 111 different recalls of the devices, signaling a need for regulators' response. "These changes to the way these devices are reviewed will allow us to more closely monitor how they are designed and manufactured. This will go a long way towards correcting long-standing problems and ultimately improving the reliability of these devices," Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist for the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said at the time. The PMA requirement is set to go into effect this July.

- read the Reuters story
- here's the CMAJ study abstract